Dry weather farming at Freshwater Creek

Title: Agriculture Victoria —  Strategies for dry weather farming in south west Victoria - Andy Smith - Freshwater Creek

Vision: Map showing location of Freshwater Creek and Melbourne —  entrance to property

Vision: Andy Smith — Ghazeepore —  Ghazeepore Freshwater Creek

Andy Smith —  Ghazeepore

'Well Andy Smith is my name.'

Vision: Shed and cattle

'And I've been here on this farm at Freshwater Creek for 32 years.'

Slide: Seasonal conditions - Andy Smith speaking:

'It didn't matter really what happened after about the start of December, because the damage was really done from the start of September. And in the last 10 or 15 years we've expected rain in spring that we haven't got. And then this year it was tipped to be a bad El Nino and it turned out to be completely as bad as they tipped.'

Vision: Climate change is —  Climate Drivers Presentation —  Dr Graeme Anderson, DJPR

'Graeme Anderson, who's a weather and climate specialist, spoke at a conference in June, and he was so convincing.'

Vision: El Nino and Southern Oscillation (ENSO) — Andy Smith speaking:

'He's a conservative sort of fellow. He was saying, I know what you all think about forecasts, but I'm here to tell you that there are some forecasts that are more reliable than others. And the best reliability we've got is for forecasting a failed spring, and that's what I'm going to do now.'

Vision: Slide —  Chance of exceeding the median rainfall: June to August 2015, showing Freshwater Creek

Vision: Strategic decision making

'Well the first thing I did when I came home was I looked at a mob of new lambs that I had for — that I would normally keep through until around about January. But lamb prices were fantastic. They were still lambs and they were about to become not lambs, so I got in and I sold. Out of 700 I sold 500 straight to the butchers. A lot of money, $125 each, and that took a lot of pressure off there. I had 20 heifers that I was lining up to join for an autumn calving.'

Vision: Cattle in pen

'Again, the prices were so good, I wanted to keep them because I'd, you know, you get attached to your bloodlines etcetera, but I couldn't justify keeping them, and they went to the butcher in July.'

Andy Smith speaking:

'It eased the pressure, maybe back to 85% of what we'd normally have. And it really needed to come back to 55% of what we'd normally have. And to do that, I had to do things that —  I should have done things that I found a little bit against the grain. I mean selling livestock that I had gone out particularly to get some genetics, new genetics, and I felt really reluctant to out them. So I committed myself to expense. And now it's done, and we've had a bit of relief with this big three inches of rain the day after Australia Day, I'm happy. But if it hadn't have been for that relief, I'd of still been happy, but oh gee, it would have cost me an awful lot.'

Vision: Ground cover —  Andy Smith speaking:

'There is a small fine line between soil that's going to be easily —  going to be damaged, and soil that will just hang on.'

Vision: Andy showing soil and groundcover —  Andy Smith speaking:

'I mean if you look at the soil here it's well below the recommended 70% groundcover. But I'm, because it's flat, I'm happy enough that there's been no real damage even washing over, and it well —  and if I keep livestock off it, even if it dries totally out, I don't think it will blow. But, it's on the edge.'

Vision: Summer cropping

'There's plenty of summer crops that can go in in August. And they mightn't do much, they might just sit there, and that's what I've found with the one I've got.'

Vision: Sheep

'It just sat there, but it did a marvellous job of sitting there and staying alive. There was nothing to eat.'

Vision: Fodder crop

'But now finally, there's a lot of tucker.'

Vision: Sheep grazing —  Andy Smith speaking:

'I just ignored it. I had it off once to get rid of the moths. But now it's given my ewes that are getting in lamb, a wonderful burst. Puts fat on their back and makes it so much easier to feed them through later on if I have to, because they haven't been for 6 months on a sort of a dry hard ration.'

Vision: Key messages —  Andy Smith speaking:

'You know, in some areas we are advancing a lot. But we've got to be careful not to get too smart for ourselves. And we've got to remember some of the basics from the past as well, which are, you know, if you've got too many stock just sell them, sell some.'

Slide: Agriculture Victoria —  Drought. Don't go it alone

Special thanks to Andy Smith —  Ghazeepore

Victoria State Government - Speaker: Authorised by the Victorian Government, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne

Page last updated: 18 Jan 2021